First Cup: Friday

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Some rappers, like Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., found fame for predicting their own death in rap lyrics. Spurs forward Stephen Jackson, a part-time rapper himself, appears to have foreseen a fate far more benign. “Haters on the sideline, hopin’ I sprain an ankle,” Jackson rapped on his recent single “Lonely at the Top.” In the first quarter of the Spurs’ 100-83 loss to New York on Thursday, rap turned to reality for Jackson. Drifiting down the celebrity-studded sideline at Madison Square Garden after missing a 3-pointer, Jackson sprained his right ankle when he tripped over a waitress taking concession orders from patrons courtside. In a bizarre twist, the fan she appeared to be taking the order from was New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Only in the Big Apple. … After the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was too early to assess how long Jackson might be sidelined. Having not viewed a replay of the collision, Popovich said he was unsure exactly how Jackson was injured.

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni responded to Amar’e Stoudemire’s comments after his team’s practice Thursday. A day earlier, Stoudemire said Mike Woodson was the first “defensive coach” in his career. But rather than taking offense at Stoudemire’s observation, D’Antoni, who coached him for eight seasons with the Suns and the Knicks, congratulated him on his new attitude. “I think it’s great,” D’Antoni said. “I think it’s great that he’s listening. He might have forgotten that Mike Woodson was also running the defense the last year I was there, so I don’t know if he just didn’t pick that year to listen. But Amar’e’s great. Sometimes you say things, but hopefully, that’s another step he can take forward and help his game. That would be great.”

  • Carl Steward of The Oakland Tribune: The easiest way to quantify the Warriors' collective rebound this season? Rebounding. The Warriors came into 2012-13 as arguably the worst rebounding team in the NBA for three years running,and at least in terms of opponent differential, there was no "arguably" about it. They were 30th -- dead last -- for three consecutive seasons. This year? They are second in rebound differential, and gaining on the front-running Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 4.6 more rebounds per game than the competition as opposed to 6.6 fewer last season. That's an incredible leap in glass-sweeping for a team that still lacks a monster rebounder. Across the statistical board, the Warriors have made similar quantum improvements on the boards. They are tied for second in total rebounds (28th a year ago), tied for second in rebound percentage (30th a year ago), first in defensive rebounds (tied for 24th a year ago) and 10th in offensive rebounds (29th a year ago). Where it's most telltale: The win-loss column. The Warriors are 20-2 when they out-rebound opponents, 2-8 when they don't. They have out-rebounded opponents 22 times in 32 games. Last season, in 66 games, they out-rebounded opposing teams only 17 times.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Paul George called himself the "X factor" and admitted he wants to make the All-Star team at some point in his career. The latter part of George's comment was brushed aside at the time. Every player in the league wants to make the All-Star team. And George had a difficult time with consistency during his first two years. It turns out George may have a chance to make the All-Star team sooner than he expected. He averaged 18.8 points in December and kicked off the new year by scoring 29 against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. He's averaging 16.9 points on the season and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week last month. … What George has in his favor over a player such as Toronto's DeMar DeRozen is that the Pacers (19-13) have a winning record, something coaches usually take into consideration when voting. "He's definitely worthy of consideration," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "When you have a team that is fourth in the East, you usually get one or two All Stars who go. Our guys, we don't have 25-points-a-game guys on our team, but David (West) and Paul are certainly playing at All-Star levels right now.

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: To produce, they have to be on the floor. The fact that they play the same positions as Favors and Kanter is a mere inconvenience, at this point. But as the trade deadline nears, the Jazz can swap either Jefferson or Millsap, or both, for assets that are much less redundant, less expensive and more promising: draft picks. They need an athletic young point guard who can pass and score, who can help young bigs like Favors and Kanter in a lesser-but-similar way a young John Stockton helped a young Karl Malone. Whether or not Mo Williams heals quickly, he’s not the solution. Picture, for instance, Damian Lillard on the Jazz’s current roster … that’s what the team needs. The Jazz could keep Jefferson and Millsap straight through to season’s end, letting their money come off the books to bring in a free agent or two. The problems tangled with that include 1) who’s out there that fits what the Jazz want, 2) would those free agents want to play for the Jazz, and 3) would the Jazz have to overpay to get them? … Outside of a blockbuster trade that would bring them a superstar guard, and not erode their foundation, it would be better for the Jazz to trade one or both of their bigs for other assets and draft picks. From there, it would be in the hands of general manager Dennis Lindsey to make the right choices. That’s his job, it’s what he’s paid to do — evaluate talent, find a way to secure it.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Rajon Rondo says his New Year’s resolution is to not judge anyone else. Yesterday, asked if the Celtics didn’t have enough sore losers like himself, the point guard kept the message personal. The point guard said he’s a sore loser, which means that Rondo must be especially miserable now, in a four-game losing streak with games rapidly approaching against three playoff-caliber teams — Indiana tonight, in Atlanta tomorrow, and at New York on Monday. But he’s not pointing fingers for the mess the Celtics find themselves in today. “Everybody isn’t a sore loser, as you’re learning,” Rondo said, speaking in apparent generalities. “Some teams are OK with losing, and some guys are OK with getting a check. Everything I do, I compete, and this is frustrating. This might be my first four-game losing streak, but we’ve had three in the past a lot of times, so it’s nothing to get too down about. It’s a long season, I’m staying positive. I still have faith in this team. I still have high expectations.

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: For the first time this season, the Wizards had a full complement of 15 players at practice. Yes, that means John Wall participated fully after being sidelined since September with a stress injury to his left patella. On Thursday, he walked off the Verizon Center main court in a sweat-soaked No. 2 practice jersey. "This is Christmas all over for him, I'm sure, to finally reach this point," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "You could see the spark in his eyes -- finally. So we just gotta be patient. He's gotta be itching to push this as fast as he can. We gotta be careful with that." Wall was cleared to ramp up his activity after a visit with orthopedic specialist David Altchek on Dec. 14, and he resumed noncontact work just before Christmas. His next task will be to get into shape, and Wittman was cautious about just when Wall might actually suit up in a game.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: DeMar DeRozan has now officially shattered every stereotype imaginable of today’s young professional athlete. New Year’s Eve turns into New Year’s Day and everyone knows the kids are out at the clubs or someone’s house, right? Practice for that day is long over, there’s not another game for two days, the benevolent dictators who run things around the Raptors schedule a rare mid-afternoon practice on Jan. 1 so that the kids can go out and have their fun. DeRozan? He’s a 22-year-old lad, with wealth and fame and notoriety beyond his wildest imagination and surely some A List event is beckoning. DeRozan? He’s in bed most of the night. Watching videos. Of himself. Playing basketball. So he can get better. For real. “New Year’s? I was watching film that night,” DeRozan said Thursday. “I probably watched film for about two hours. A lot of my mistakes, a lot of my decision-making, a lot of little things like that.” No, DeMar. We’re talking New Year’s Eve here. “New Year’s night. Right after they said Happy New Year,” he said. “It was about 1:30 in the morning until about 3 in the morning. I was just laying in bed and watching. I’m just trying to better myself at every part.”

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The last time Darrell Arthur found himself in this position, he was running around high school gymnasiums in the Dallas area. Arthur last played small forward when his prep coach wanted to overwhelm an opponent by using a big lineup. … Arthur has been thrown a lot of curve balls with injuries during his NBA career. He admits having fun hacking away at this slider — playing the three spot behind Rudy Gay with usual reserve Quincy Pondexter out with a knee injury. … The Grizzlies front office isn't actively seeking to sign a swingman, even though there are two openings on the team's 13-man roster. Memphis' new ownership is a bit skittish about adding to its roughly $4 million luxury-tax bill. Any additional player salary would be multiplied by two under the rules of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. Plus, all player contracts will be fully guaranteed Jan. 10. A player signed today would have to be waived Monday to clear waivers if the Griz didn't intend to keep him for the rest of the season. NBA teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts in a week, but the Griz have not indicated they are willing to go that route. All of this adds up to Arthur roaming across the entire front line for the foreseeable future.

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: Though Jrue Holiday’s numbers were mostly impressive, there seems to be bit of a recurring problem to his game. At times, he simply tries to do too much – whether it’s a pass in the lane among four defenders or trying to dribble penetrate when nothing is there. But the problem isn’t Holiday, really. The problem is that he is trying to do so much because no one else is consistently doing much of anything, save undersized Thaddeus Young, who scored 13 against the Suns, his 23rd consecutive double-figure game.

  • David Mayo of MLive.com: Charlie Villanueva fired back at Isaiah Thomas after the Sacramento Kings guard called the Detroit Pistons forward a "dirty player," and said he would appeal the $25,000 fine levied against him for an incident between the two Tuesday. Villanueva was hit with a Flagrant-Two foul and ejected with four seconds left in the first half of the Pistons' 103-97 win after he leveled Thomas in the lane, and flashed a high forearm in doing so. The 5-foot-9 Thomas levied his charge that the 6-foot-11 Villanueva's action was a response to another physical play between them moments earlier in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. Villanueva dismissed the charge and denied there was any preexisting animosity before the play leading to his ejection and league-imposed fine. "Dirty player? Not at all. I just saw an open lane, I tried to block (him) and he's 4-foot-11, 100 pounds wet, so it looks bad," Villanueva said. "But I'm not a dirty player. I didn't try to hurt him at all."

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: Throwing down the gauntlet, Virginia Beach's mayor has set a Monday deadline to have a lease signed with a professional sports team – widely reported to be the Sacramento Kings – or he'll pull the plug on the city's arena efforts for this year. Mayor Will Sessoms, who has been pushing a plan for a $300 million-plus arena in his city, told The Bee he has informed the city's private partner, arena operator Comcast-Spectacor, he wants an agreement now.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: If he has his way, Mike James will eventually make his way onto the Mavericks' roster. The Mavericks' NBA Development League franchise -- the Texas Legends -- signed James to a contract. And the 37-year-old guard is hoping to use his time with the Legends as an opportunity to play for the Mavericks. Since starting his pro basketball career in 1996, James certainly has been on a whirlwind journey. He has played for 10 NBA teams, for teams in four foreign countries, and also in the United States Basketball League, Continental Basketball League and the D-League.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns franchise is one victorious night from reaching 2,000 wins in the fourth-shortest time in NBA history, even if closing in on the mark has come at a crawl. That feat is a match with a franchise winning percentage (.556) that is also fourth in NBA history, but this current team is not reflective of success. These Suns are among the franchise’s poorer teams. The Suns’ pace at 12-21 (.364) would make for the fourth-worst season in the Suns’ 44-year history. Lose Friday night against Utah and it becomes third-worst. All-time infamy is not the immediate concern of the Suns, who prefer to see themselves as five games out of playoff position rather than one spot from the Western Conference cellar.

  • Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman: Just as the Chesapeake Energy Arena is generally considered the loudest arena in the NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder fans have placed the Thunder No. 1 in local TV ratings. The Thunder is averaging a 7.9 household rating in Oklahoma City through 26 games on Fox Sports Oklahoma and is the top-rated NBA team on any regional sports network, well ahead of the Miami Heat (5.8 average on Sun Sports) and San Antonio Spurs (5.7 on Fox Sports Southwest). The Nov. 28 game vs. Houston Rockets averaged a 13.6 and is the highest-rated NBA game on any Fox Sports regional network this season. ABC's Heat-Thunder telecast on Christmas Day set a Thunder regular-season record with a 23.3. Thanks to the strong Thunder ratings, since the start of the NBA season, FSOK has been the highest-rated cable network in Oklahoma City in prime time.